In a music industry cluttered with throw away pop that gets forgotten in mere nanoseconds, rare indeed are artists who go against the grain and stand for music that has lasting value.
And the Katinas are as rare as they come.
With a lifetime of making music as a tight-knit family, this quintet of brothers, without question the premier vocal group in Christian music, have taken the road less traveled with the aptly named Timeless, a carefully chosen collection of classic Christian songs that have informed and inspired them, all updated with modern arrangements and the Katinas' singularly unique melodic and vocal style.
But Timeless, which includes tracks penned by the likes of Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Andraé Crouch, Keith Green, and Randy Stonehill (who wrote the first single, Shut De Do), is way more than a tribute to the pioneers of Christian music. For the Katinas, it's a musical timeline that literally traces their faith journeys as individuals, as brothers, and as a band.
"We grew up listening to these artists," says James. "We lived in American Samoa, 2,000 miles south of Hawaii, so the only way we could keep up with what was happening in Christian music at that time was through the cassettes and records our cousins mailed us from the states. That's how we discovered these songs; they're the reason for our love of music."
Choosing the tunes wasn't a walk in the park, though. One might assume that a final lineup with the likes of Green's Your Love Broke Through and Crouch's My Tribute was easily attained, but the fellas started with more than 100 songs in the hopper. "There are so many great ones in Christian music," Joe notes. "We'd have five to 10 meetings on just one song choice."
"It was a long process, but it was worth it," James adds. "We're excited; we feel that the Christian music lover and audience is ready for a record like this."
And with production handled and overseen by longtime studio vet Brown Bannister, the Katinas assured themselves that Timeless would contain a voice and vision that not only spans the decades but also is filled with power and uncanny consistency despite the disparate material.
"He's probably the most decorated producer in our industry," says John. "We have experience under our belts too, but what Brown brings to the table in terms of stability and wisdom is priceless. This is the best work we've done so far, and Brown is a big reason why. He's great at making sense out of everything and pulling out the best performances from each of us. And when you have five brothers in a band, often with five different ideas, you need someone to be a sounding board, and Brown was the guy."
"When we put our stamps on these songs, the credit goes to Brown and [co-producer] Dan Needham for keeping the reigns on and still encouraging our creativity," says James. "The result is exactly what we wanted to accomplish; our best record with our most cohesive sound."
In keeping with the Katinas road-less-traveled outlook, one of the first tunes they chose for Timeless isn't actually part of the Christian music canon, Living Years by Mike & The Mechanics.
"It's not a blatant Christian song," Joe says. "But it was the first or second one picked. When we decided on the concept for this album, 'Living Years' was an immediate choice." With its well-known lyrical plea for people at odds with each other, especially family members, to forgive and patch up differences before death comes, Living Years addresses age-old issues that the Katinas have observed not only in their fans' lives but also in their own.
"As we travel, we're seeing the hurt and pain in peoples' lives that stem from family relationships," Joe continues. "And as we get older, we find ourselves going to more funerals and hearing about more deaths, so we just couldn't do this record without addressing this issue." But "Living Years" speaks even more loudly to the Katinas' relationship with their dad.
"Our dad was a strict disciplinarian when we were growing up; it was a relationship born out of fear," Joe notes. "And when our mom died in 1988, there was a huge vacuum between us and our dad. We know that he has regrets, but we also know he did the best he could. In 1993, restoration and healing began, but it's still not always the easiest thing.
"So it taught all of us, because we're all husbands now, that we need to keep communication open between us and our loved ones as much as we can. We never had that growing up, so we want to make sure our kids and our wives get it from us. Like the song says, 'Say it loud, say it clear,' and do it while you're alive. It's a message we hope that future generations will continue to carry."
Another tune not found in the canon of classic Christian music (because it's a brand new tune the Katinas wrote with co-producer Dan Needham toward the end of the recording process) is Lifetime.
"We were wanting a more up-tempo track," Jesse explains, "and we also felt like we needed to say something from our own hearts as a response to all these great songs, and Lifetime really reflects the album's concept of spiritual longevity and deep purpose."
And even as the band traced their spiritual journeys during the final song selection process, the experience of recording the tracks showed took things to even deeper levels of realization and breakthrough.
"We first heard many of these songs when we were really young," says youngest brother Jesse, who sings lead along with John. "When you're younger, you get a sense of the melody, but you don't pay as much attention to the lyrics because you're not at a place in your life where you can relate to them as well. So it wasn't until we actually got into the studio to work on our own versions that we really appreciated what the songs were saying lyrically.
For instance, Amy Grant's Arms of Love was really familiar to all of us, but it wasn't until I dove into the lyrics and tried to wring the emotion out of the words and the vocals that I fully appreciated the song. And when you read the lyrics for these songs back to back to back, you understand how powerful they still are."
Joe couldn't agree more, "When you're a kid, the world is awesome. But then you grow up, you go through things, and you can get jaded about life. So recording these songs reminded us how we used to look at life and music, about how much fun it can be, and the love we've shared, but I'm mostly reminded of God's love.
"Through all the good and bad things we've experienced, the challenges, God's love brought us through every single thing."